NEW YORK (TIP): “It is indeed a great win for democracy and by striking down the Section 66A of the Information Technology Act, the Supreme Court has once again reassured the people of India of their fundamental right: the freedom of expression’ Said George Abraham, the Chairman of the Indian National Overseas Congress, USA. ‘This landmark judgment has restored our faith in the system and it is time that the power centers stop the intimidation and harassment of ordinary citizens, especially the young people, for genuinely expressing their opinions on the online media’ the statement continued.
Congratulations are in order for the law student Shreya Singhal who moved the case to the Supreme Court on behalf of Shaheen Dhada and Rinu Srinivasan, known as Palghar girls, who were arrested in 2012 under the section 66 for the ‘crime’ for ‘posting’ and clicking ‘like’ on a Facebook post.
Shaheen Dhada who was a student at that time made a Facebook post lamenting the bandh which was imposed after the death of Shiv Sena Supremo Bal Thackeray a day earlier. Reacting to her online dissent, Shiv Sainiks vandalized her uncle’s hospital and she was then promptly arrested by Palghar police under the section 66a of the IT act. Her friend Rinu Srinivasan was also arrested for clicking ‘like’ under the FB message.
“Liberty of thought and expression is of cardinal importance and it must be upheld,” said the bench of Justices J. Chelameswar and Rohinton F. Nariman. Reading the historic judgement, Justice Nariman said there are “three aspects of freedom of expression: discussion, advocacy and incitement”. Only when discussion and advocacy reach the level of incitement, Article 19 (2) of the constitution which entails reasonable restrictions on freedom of speech can be enforced. Striking down Section 66Aof the IT Act as unconstitutional, the Court also rejected the Centre’s plea that it was committed to free speech and would ensure that the provision was administered in a reasonable manner.
Shreya Singhal who has successfully fought the case issued the following statement: “Now, the Supreme Court has upheld this fundamental right. Freedom of speech and expression is more vital in today’s society than it has ever been. The Indian society is one that is diverse and has people of different castes, sex, religions that have different and dissenting views. This difference of opinion is what the thread of our society is and what really defines us as a democratic and secular country”.